Dear dedicated readers, we are recuperating these last three days. Bear with us as we are in the process of making our last posts. There are a wealth of stories we couldn’t fit in the blog. Today, we talk about a small and hopeful story about an Islamic center and their generous neighbors.
They knew that there was a church close to them when they were began building the Memphis Islamic Center, they just didn’t know what kind of a church it was.
“We were planning to go by,” Danish Siddiqi, the communications director of the Memphis Islamic Center, says, “they just got to us before we could.”
Within days of the construction starting, the Heartsong Church, the coincidental nieghbors of the mosque, put out a sign.
“We couldn’t believe what it said.” Danish chuckles.
The sign read, “Heartsong Church welcomes the Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood.”
The Muslim community was taken aback by the sign. Soon enough, they paid their visit to the pastor of the church.
“Steven Stone is an incredibly generous and hospitable man.” Danish says with excitement.
Dr. Steve Stone is the pastor of the Heartsong Church, affiliated with the United Methodist Church and has been instrumental in being hospitable to his new neighbors.
“Last Ramadan the church had a family day and organized a ‘no pork bbq’ for us.” Danish tells me.
But since it was Ramadan and the Muslims were fasting they couldn’t eat the food, but still appreciated the warm gesture. It was this year, when the relationship between the mosque and the Heartsong Church got even stronger.
The plan was to have the mosque built before the start of Ramadan so they can start holding the special Eid prayers there. Unfortunately, the mosque was behind schedule and it didn’t seem like the construction would be complete for Ramadan. Danish and the board members began to scour and find a place that they could rent.
“We tried all other options, but couldn’t find a big enough space. So that’s when we decided to go ask the pastor.”
Dr. Steve said that he wouldn’t rent the space to them, but instead, would give it to them free for as long as they want.
“Again, we couldn’t believe it. We insisted on paying, but they refused the money.”
The Heartsong Church hosted all 30 days of Ramadan taraweeh, the special night prayer during the month, in their large auditorium. Church members also stood by the door greeting the Muslim congregants that came to pray.
“It’s like the doors miraculously open for us when we come here,” Yasir Qadhi, a prominent Islamic scholar, said to me the day I attended the mosque. For those who don’t know, Yasir Qadhi recently took up a position at the Memphis Islamic Center as the resident scholar.
“Yeah, I never thought I’d end up in Memphis,” Yasir says, “but this place is great.”
Aman and I didn’t get to spend as much time in Memphis as we wish we had, but the time we spent with Chip and Eunice and then at the Heartsong Church gave us a small glimpse on what true interfaith community building looks like.
“This entire episode, makes us scratch our heads. And ask us how much do we even know the nieghbors we live around?” Danish says to me.
The Memphis Islamic Center is stil in the process of being built, but are hoping for the building to be completed fairly soon. In the back, the board members have contemplated creating a baseball field for the youth. Many in the community weren’t sure if there were enough Muslims that play baseball, but Danish begs to differ.
“Sure, right now there are more folks that want to play cricket. But I don’t think that’ll be the case with their kids.” Danish chuckles.
Building a baseball field is not just important for their own community, but Danish sees this as an opportunity to return the kind gesture. The Heartsong Church is in need of a baseball field to host home games and the Memphis Islamic Center is looking to be their home.